In "To Kill a Mockingbitd," why does Atticus think it acceptable for the children to be at the trial? characters

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I think another reason he lets the children stay is because he doesn't want them to think he is ashamed of what he is doing. He has let them watch on previous occasions without objecting, so if he doesn't let them watch this time, he may feel that it sends the wrong message. He has always been honest with them, and he has taught them that the world is not always fair or just. He has unorthodox parenting methods, and this is just another lesson that he teaches them. He wants them to see that he did his best to defend Tom Robinson, knowing that he was beat before he began, but he didn't give up because it was the right thing to do. By allowing them to watch the trial, he is teaching them to stand their ground when they know they are right, even when it seems that everyone is against them.

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Even though Atticus has not intended for the children to be present at the trial, he probably reconciles their continuing to attend since they have already hear much of the trial, and also since he has not tried to shelter them from real life, anyway.  For instance, at the end of Chapter 9, as Atticus talks with his brother about his assignment to defend Tom Robinson, he expresses no optimistic expectation of the outcome, yet he does express the hope that he

can get Jem and Scout through it [the trial] without bitterness, and most of all, without their catching Maycomb's usual disease.

So, true to his character as demonstrated in earlier in the novel, Atticus allows the children to remain in the courtroom, trusting as he always has in their reasoning abilities.  He knows that if Scout and Jem reach an ethical conclustion on their own, they will abide by this conclusion all their lives, just as he, too, abides by his ethical conclusions. 

Atticus hopes that by listening to the trial of Tom Robinson, the children will learn the meaning of Mr. Raymond's words to them in Chapter 20 of "To Kill a Mockingbird": "Cry about the simple hell people give other people--without even thinking."

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Jem and Scout attend the trial without Atticus' knowledge or approval. They just go and once there, they sit with Rev. Sykes in the "colored balcony." There they remain all day, until Calpurnia comes to court and tells Atticus she can't find them. After they are then spotted in the balcony, Atticus calls them down, and Cal takes them home for dinner, scolding them the whole way home. Atticus, however, does give in to Jem's begging and gives them permission to go back to court to wait for the jury's verdict:

Well, you've heard it all, so you might as well hear the rest.

After Tom is convicted, both the children are deeply upset and Jem especially is heartbroken. When Alexandra protests that he should not have let them attend the trial, Atticus states the painful reality that his children have just experienced and, no doubt, will experience again:

This is their home, sister . . . We've made it this way for them, they might as well learn to cope with it . . . It's just as much Maycomb County as missionary teas.

Atticus knows he cannot protect his children from the effects of the cruel racism in which they live, but he can help them understand it and deal with it.

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